The Gospel in 1 Timothy

This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

Godliness and the Gospel

The thrust of 1 Timothy is that godliness is central to the Christian’s continuing in the gospel and the church’s proclamation of the gospel. Words relating to “godliness” occur ten times in this short book (1 Tim. 2:2, 10; 3:16; 4:7, 8; 5:4; 6:3, 5, 6, 11), and throughout the letter Paul grounds godly behavior in Christ’s gospel. Sadly, those whose behavior is contrary to the gospel of Christ deny the reality of their faith (1 Tim. 1:6, 19–20; 4:1; 5:6, 8, 11–12; 6:9–10). Indeed, personal godliness (Christ-infused godliness) is not only indispensable to perseverance in faithfulness, but absolutely essential to the proclamation of the gospel to the lost world. In a nutshell, the theme of 1 Timothy is Christ-centered godliness for the sake of the gospel.

Personal godliness (Christ-infused godliness) is not only indispensable to perseverance in faithfulness, but absolutely essential to the proclamation of the gospel to the lost world.

This gospel theme is explicit in 1 Tim. 2:1–7, where Paul urges that prayers be made for all people so that believers may lead godly lives. He comments, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3–4). Paul follows this declaration of God’s gospel heart with consecutive detailed directives for godliness to three groups: women (1 Tim. 2:9–15), overseers (1 Tim. 3:1–7), and deacons (1 Tim. 3:8–13). These instructions are followed by what are the universally acknowledged key verses of the letter (1 Tim. 3:14–16), calling the church to conduct that is radically Christ-centered and Christ-generated—which is to say, gospel-centered godliness.

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Chapter 4 begins with a warning against pursuing godliness through man-centered asceticism, which Paul terms the “teaching of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1–5). This is followed by the famous non-ascetic command to Timothy to “train yourself for godliness” and its accompanying array of applications and benefits (1 Tim. 4:7–16). Chapter 5 flows into chapter 6 with directives regarding how the treatment of various groups in the church must be shaped by godliness: older men and women, younger men and women (1 Tim. 5:1–2), widows (1 Tim. 5:3–16), elders (1 Tim. 5:17–25), and masters (1 Tim. 6:1–2). In chapter 6 Paul warns against those who teach a different doctrine that “does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3–5). Godliness and greed are juxtaposed (1 Tim. 6:6–10). Paul closes by exhorting Timothy, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” And, in this Christlike spirit, “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:11–16).

So we see that 1 Timothy is not simply a moralistic manual for church conduct. It is rather a call to Christ-centered, gospel-centered godliness for the sake of the church—and a lost world.

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

Old Testament

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New Testament

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